…in families where the mother worked while her children were growing up, her adult daughters and sons attain jobs that are more equitable in terms of prestige. But in cases where the mother did not work – and therefore daughters lacked a direct, same-sex parental role model in the world of careers – sisters fare considerably worse than their brothers: my data show that women whose mothers did not work outside the home when they were growing up are 15 percent less likely to have graduated from college than their brothers were; this statistic stands in contrast to a statistically insignificant 5 percent difference between sisters and brothers in families where the mother did work outside the home for at least a year during their childhood. To put the impact of maternal employment in even starker terms, consider the following: if we hold education level and occupational prestige constant, sisters earn approximately less than $5,000 less in annual income than do their brothers. If we divide this same data according to maternal employment, however, the pattern diverges wildly. For those whose mothers worked outside the home when they were growing up, the income differential between sisters and brothers is reduced to approximately $4,5000 – but for those whose mothers did not work, the income differential shoots to more than $8,000.
What is the bottom line here? If a mother works, her daughters are more likely to earn an income commensurate with their familial status. Working moms should feel less guilty.